While standing line at Radio Shack the other day I noticed a customer ahead of me who had a cart full of battery chargers and AA top up likee batteries. Turns out he had decided to replace all of the AA batteries in his home with rechargeables. Sounds like a great idea but he was spending over a hundred dollars!
I do realize that many people want to switch to rechargeable batteries for environmental reasons, which is fair enough. But the truth is that when cost is the primary factor, low current-draw devices simply don’t warrant the additional expense of rechargeable batteries. This is because the batteries of low current-draw devices are typically changed so infrequently, the payback recovery period of rechargeable batteries would take far too long to justify the investment. An example where it makes much more sense to use traditional alkaline batteries for typical home devices like your wall clocks, smoke detectors, radios, programmable thermostats, and remote controls because they lose power at a much slower rate than the much more expensive rechargeable batteries.
Because regular alkaline batteries can hold a charge for many years when not in use, they are the better choice for items that may sit unused for long periods of time, like your wall clock and emergency flashlights. What it all boils down to is that these low current-draw or low-use devices make up a huge majority of battery driven devices in a typical home. You are much better off going to Costco or Sam’s club and purchasing a large pack of AA alkaline batteries than their rechargeable counterpart.
An example of where the rechargeable battery would make much more sense is something that gets considerable use daily, such as a remote for a Nintendo Wii system. The initial higher cost of rechargeables would be recovered in a matter of weeks. To summarize, rechargeable batteries are ideal for moderate to high use devices that drain batteries quickly, but are not cost effective for low current-draw and/or low-use devices. These low current-draw devices tend to make up the great majority of battery-powered products in the typical home.